What Eating Disorders Are Not

 

It is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Here are a few things you should be aware of:

Eating Disorders are not a trend, a phase or a "teenage, white girl problem". Eating disorders are not about the food, getting attention, being beautiful or staying thin. Eating disorders are not a diet or a healthy lifestyle. They are not representative of discipline and strength. They are not glamorous. They are nothing to aspire to. Shrinking yourself so that your body takes up merely a few inches of space on this earth, or because you do not think you're good enough to eat, or because the mirror potently declares a distorted image of yourself, or because you hear the voices of those that hurt you years ago (the list can go on forever)... The point is, that remaining as small as possible for any reason, will turn you into half the human being you were before. Less than half, actually. You will become crumbs of the person you used to be. Then, you will truly and irrevocably want to vanish. No, eating disorders are not lovely. 

So, what are they? They are a serious mental illness. They are a behavior that represents a problem worlds deeper. They are about craving love, desiring control, trying to be valuable, gaining a sense of identity, emptying bad emotions, coping with stressful situations, fear of being unloved, fear of failure, fear of being alone and about things too profound to explain in a single article. 

Yes, they are difficult to understand. Being empathic with someone who struggles with an eating disorder can be arduous but necessary for their healing. Be kind, be compassionate, educate yourself and know that it is not their fault. Tell them you love them. Assure them their voice is louder than the overwhelming, negative self-talk that drowns them. Hug them. Let them know imperfections are completely lovable. Teach them to fight back when the mirror, the scale, the model on the magazine and that chocolate chip ice-cream won't stand down. Be proud of every "small" accomplishment because sole bricks add up to castles. Hug them again. 

For those who suffer through it, getting better is not easy. It is a bumpy ride. No, you cannot simply "decide to eat" the same way you cannot simply "stop having diabetes". No, you cannot do it on your own. Yes, giving up will sound beautiful sometimes. And yes, getting better is possible.